USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘light’
Folk Beliefs

Ghost light (Theatre)

Allegra:  I think this might be pretty common folklore, but every theater has a ghost. Sometimes, in particularly old theaters, a ghost can cause disruptions if not appeased.

Me: Have you ever experienced a theater ghost?

Allegra: Yes. Many times. Our high school theatre had a ghost who would take the bra from a quick change pile and move it to the opposite side of backstage. Well, perhaps that wasn’t a ghost. Probably just a bad techie. Anyway, yes the ghost light is kept on in empty theaters (theaters which are not in rehearsal or performance) to appease the ghost, and I suppose for safety reasons as well. People do not want to be fumbling around in a dark theatre when they enter.

Me: What do they look like?

Allegra: Well it’s a lightbulb on top of a metal stand, and there is usually a cage around the light. Whoever leaves the theatre last is supposed to plug it in so that the next person can see.

Analysis: A ghost light goes along with many superstitions in theatre. (Never say Macbeth, a bad final dress rehearsal means a good opening night and vice versa) The ghost light superstition seems ridiculous but it is a serious practice among Thespians. As artists, actors are prone to letting the supernatural have more sway. Perhaps this is because their imaginations are more active than dryer fields of work, or because their work is so subjective and a bad show can be the result of events outside of their control. In either case, a ghost light is one of many theatre superstitions well alive today. 220px-Ghost_Light_on_Stage


How the Raven Gave Light – Haida Gwaii (Canada)

I cannot remember which year it was, but one of the years I stayed behind on the Queen Charlotte Islands for the fishing derby, I had a chance to talk to one of the natives of Masset (which is part of the Haida Gwaii territory) who was selling Haida paraphernalia at the Masset Airport.  He was of Haida descent, and upon asking him about the significance of the numerous raven figurines – I was aware of the significance of ravens in native American legends, but wanted to know how it fit into the heritage of the indigenous people of Haida Gwaii –  he told me the story of how the raven gave light to the world.

At the beginning of time, the world was consumed by darkness.  The Raven had existed since the beginning of time, and was growing tired of living in the dark.  After some period of time, the Raven came across an old man who lived with his one and only daughter.  The old man had a little box that contained all of the light of the universe, and the Raven decided to steal it from the man and his daughter.  Once the daughter went to the river to gather water, the Raven transformed himself into a fir needle and floated in the the daughter’s basket.  She drank the water, needle included, and the Raven found himself in the stomach of the daughter.  He then changed into a human fetus, and was eventually born as the grandson of the old man.  The Raven convinced the old man to allow him to hold the box of light, but when the old man was handing it over, the Raven transformed to his original form and stole the ball of light in the box.  He escaped the house of the old man, and gave the ball of light to the universe.

I’ve gone to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) every summer since I was 8.  It’s our families annual deep-sea fishing trip, and have met many of Haida people.  There are many Haida natives still living in Masset, which is where the airport is.  I have seen many Haida people in my lifetime, as some even lead tours to show off their many totem poles and historical residences.  I am going back this summer, and who knows, maybe I’ll get my own story.  But once again, we see an animal-centered native story.  And I’ve always thought of the raven as an animal of darkness, but in this case the Raven is a source of light.